Thursday, February 6, 2014

Frank Jones' Maplewood Farm

Frank Jones' Maplewood Farm can be found at 1094 Woodbury Avenue, opposite the intersection of Woodbury and Maplewood Avenues.

The farm can be traced back to Theodore Atkinson, who came to the Seacoast in 1694, and was appointed Clerk of the Superior Court of the Province of New Hampshire in 1701. Upon his death in 1719, the estate was inherited by his nephew, George Atkinson, who became a member of the NH Senate and Council. When George died in 1788, his wife, Susannah Sparhawk, inherited the property. An adjoining farm was owned by Charles E. Myers, who ran a clothing store downtown.

Frank Jones, one of the most remarkable men to ever live in Portsmouth, purchased the Sparhawk and Myers farms in 1867. He named the property 'Maplewood Farm' and soon remodeled the centerpiece of the farm, the large farmhouse built by Myers around 1860. It still exists today.

Over the years, Jones enlarged and remodeled Maplewood Farm until it encompassed a thousand acres, adding a large stable and race track, barns, a Victorian flower garden, fountains, bridges, statuary, green houses, a vineyard, fish ponds, summer homes, a tennis court, and croquet lawns. He opened the grounds to the public, who referred to the property as 'The Public Garden of Portsmouth.' Despite the lavishness of the property, Frank Jones rarely stayed here, except during the month of August. The rest of the time he resided at the Rockingham on State Street. 

Courtesy of History of Rockingham and Strafford Counties, New Hampshire, 1882

Frank Jones was born in 1832 and learned hard work and independent thinking from his father, Thomas Jones, a farmer from Barrington, NH. When he was seventeen years old, Frank moved to Portsmouth and worked as a tin peddler for his oldest brother, who owned a hardware store on Market Street. Within four years, he made enough money to purchase a part-ownership of the store, and soon bought out his brother and became the sole owner. 

He partnered with John Swindels, an Englishman who owned a small Portsmouth brewery, in 1858. Three years later, he sold the Market Street hardware store to his younger brother and purchased Swindels & Company outright. He devoted himself to modernizing and improving the brewery, adding a large malt house in 1863, and an even larger one in 1879. Eventually, the Frank Jones Brewery, fifty-one buildings on fifteen acres south of Islington Street, became the largest brewing company in the United States, producing 165,000 barrels a year.

Courtesy of Sidis Psychotherapeutic Institute, 1909

Frank Jones had many business interests.

He was the President of the Bay State Brewery in South Boston, the Boston & Maine Railroad, the Dover and Portsmouth Railroad, the Portsmouth Shoe Company, the Granite State Fire Insurance Company, the Portsmouth Fire Association, the Portsmouth Machine Company, the Morley Button Manufacturing Company, and the Morley Button Sewing Machine Company. 

Courtesy of Sidis Psychotherapeutic Institute, 1909

He was a director of many companies, including the Eastern Railroad, the Wolfboro Railroad,  the New Hampshire National Bank, the New Hampshire Fire Insurance Company, the National State Capital Bank, and the Portsmouth Trust and Guarantee Company.

Frank Jones was Mayor of Portsmouth in 1868 and 1869. An extremely wealthy man, he returned his salary to the city as a trust for the purchase of books for the high school library and the establishment of a public library. He served in the U.S. Congress from 1875-1879, and nearly won the election for Governor in 1880.

Among his possessions were the Rockingham, which he purchased in 1870, Wentworth-by-the-Sea in 1879, and the Music Hall in 1899. Always thinking big, he enlarged and remodeled all of them.

According to History of Rockingham and Strafford Counties, New Hampshire, a book published in 1882, “No man has contributed more to advance the material prosperity and the general welfare of the city of Portsmouth than Hon. Frank Jones.”

After his death in 1902 – he is buried in South Cemetery – his widow donated about thirty-five acres, including the large farmhouse, to her psychotherapist, Dr. Boris Sidis. From 1909 until Dr. Sidis’ death in 1923, it served as a psycho-therapeutic sanitarium known as the Sidis Institute.

During the 1930s, the expansive property was divided into various house lots and gardens.

The vintage photograph above is from Sidis Psychotherapeutic Institute, published in 1909. More than a century later, the mansion has barely changed and now serves as a multifamily home. Although the property was subdivided years ago, remnants of Maplewood Farms remain. 

For example, a gazebo (right) that once adorned the front lawn still exists, in the same location, although it now sits in the backyard next door. 

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